Martina hadn’t laughed so much and so hard in a long time. Mr. Pendlebury was one of the sweetest, most charming and funny men she had ever met. From the moment, they met, she knew that they would get along famously.
Mr. Pendlebury was very pleased that he was able to amuse her with his stories. He was very impressed with her and was delighted that she was soon going to become a member of the family. He had no doubt that Laird’s mother and Karson would have welcomed her with open arms.
He wasn’t so sure about Antonia, though. She seemed cordial enough towards Martina but he sensed that there was something beneath the surface which he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Perhaps, he would broach the subject with her later.
After dinner, the four of them went to the drawing-room where they had their coffee. Mr. Pendlebury sat at the piano and began to play. The room was filled with the thrilling sounds of Chopin and Mozart.
Then, the music stopped as he got up and walked over to the accent chair by the fireplace where Martina sat. “That was amazing. I felt as if I were listening to Chopin himself.”
He smiled. “Thank you. And now, my dear, I’m going to give you a tour of the mansion and then, show you my wife’s collection of vintage heirlooms and her great-great grandmother’s handwritten recipes. I thought you would be interested in seeing those because Laird told me that you’re an excellent cook.”
Martina looked over to where Laird stood beside the window and beamed at him. “Thank you, Honey.”
“You’re welcome,” he replied.
Martina rose to her feet and turning to Mr. Pendlebury, she said, “I would love to see more of your fabulous home, your wife’s collections and her great-great grandmother’s recipes.”
Mr. Pendlebury extended his arm and then, he said to Laird, “Excuse us,” and they left.
Laird watched them go. He was thrilled to see that they were hitting it off but he would have preferred if his father had remained here and he was the one to take Martina on a tour than to be stuck here with Antonia.
Antonia was thankful to be alone with him. All evening, she had wished for that. “Dad seems quite taken with your fiancée,” she remarked.
“I’m not at all surprised,” was his reply.
“She isn’t what I expected.”
“And what did you expect?”
“What’s her background?”
“What do you mean?”
“Is she African?”
“No, she isn’t and if she were, would that make a difference?”
“I–I don’t suppose so–“
“Not everyone who is black is from Africa, you know. Martina is English. She was born and raised here.”
“I didn’t mean to offend you.”
He didn’t answer.
“What about her parents?”
“They’re from Guyana which is in South America. It was formerly known as British Guiana.”
“Oh. So, they moved here before she was born.”
“Have you met her parents?”
“Not as yet but, I’m looking forward to it.” He hoped his father and Martina wouldn’t be gone too long. He wanted so much to be alone with her. She looked amazing in the black cocktail dress which flattered her figure. He hadn’t been able to take his eyes off her. She sat on his father’s right while he sat on the left and Antonia at end of the table.
His father was his usual engaging self and the conversation between Martina and him flowed easily, naturally. One could hardly tell that they had only just met. They carried on as if they had known each other for years. If it were any other man, he would have been insanely jealous. To be honest, he was very pleased that his father and Martina got along so well.
Antonia watched him. He suddenly seemed preoccupied. He was physically there with her but his mind seemed to be elsewhere. Perhaps he was thinking about his fiancée. Jealousy clawed at her insides and her fingers curled into tight fists at her sides. She had tried to engage him, get his attention but it was no use. He had eyes only for Martina.
She had to accept the fact that she was never going to have Laird and no amount of hoping for a miracle was going to change that. Still, she couldn’t stop wishing with all her heart that something would happen so that there was no wedding. How wonderful it would be if Martina were to fall out of love with Laird and in love with his father. Laird would be understandably devastated and his love for Martina would turn to hate. And she, Antonia would be there to comfort him and help him to get over Martina’s betrayal.
Perhaps, Laird would quit his job and be persuaded to leave England with her. Even as she entertained these thoughts, she knew that they were in vain. It was painfully obvious that Laird and Martina were madly in love with each other. Still, there must be something she could do to prevent the wedding from happening. She had between now and November 20 to think of something.